Cast Iron

6 Ways to Use a Dutch Oven

December 11, 2014

For our Provisions shop, we search for the best and most beautiful things for our kitchen and home. And since we like to share, we’re showing you all of the different ways to use some of our favorite products. 

Today: Call it a Dutch oven, a cocotte, a casserole dish, or a cast iron pan -- just don't underestimate it.

You have a choice in life (and in cooking): Adhere to labels and conventions or think outside of the box. If we did the former, we’d never have used a chopstick to mix a cocktail, prepped corn using a Bundt pan, or made hash browns in a waffle iron. And we would have been missing out.

If you're only pulling out your Dutch oven to sauté vegetables, you're not using it to its full potential. In that spirit of creativity, here are 6 ways to put your cast iron Dutch oven pot to work: 

1. Bake bread. Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe has amassed a serious following. You just stir and then bake -- no kneading, no shaping, and very little room for error. The steam from the Dutch oven creates a crackly, golden crust -- the kind home bakers lust after -- and a perfectly round shape.

2. Make a skillet cookie. What’s better than a cookie? A giant cookie. Press a batch of cookie dough into your pot in an even layer; bake until golden, and top with ice cream. You can share it with friends or unveil it proudly at the end of the dinner party to gasps and compliments.

3. Braise meat. Low and slow: That’s the key to braising. Cast iron keeps heat consistent during cooking, so you can leave the pot alone for hours without fussing with the stove. As an added bonus, it retains heat long after you take your braise from the stove -- take it directly to the table and it’ll stay warm for dinner.

4. Cook soups and stews. Dutch ovens intensify the flavors of soups and stews and turn them into one-pot meals. Add your ingredients in order of how long they need to cook -- start with sturdy vegetables like onions, carrots, and potatoes and add delicate greens, pasta, or cheeses towards the end. Layering flavors on top of one another creates a richer final product (and it means you don't need to dirty extra dishes).

5. Poach chicken. Poaching prevents chicken from drying out, yielding tender meat. It’s an excellent technique to use if you’re planning on shredding chicken breasts for chicken salad or tacos. A deep, wide Dutch oven holds enough water to cover your protein by a few extra inches of water and retains heat well, so you can easily maintain a gentle simmer.

6. Fry something. Frying can be a daunting task -- and a messy one. The tall sides of a Dutch oven help to cut down on oil splatter, and the cast iron handles very high heat without burning.

We’re guessing many of you own Dutch ovens – tell us, how do you like to use yours?

Bread photo by Beth Kirby; all other photos by James Ransom

6 Comments

stardust4300 December 22, 2014
I use 1. BREAD so much! I own 4 LeCrueset and a cast iron then 2 original Magnalite made in Louisiana. I don't use it for a cookie at all but everything else. The no knead bread is my absolute must have. OMG that bread hot out of the oven and then some homemade butter is just to die for. My son wasn't a sweet eater but when he was in the military all he thought about was homemade bread. His fave was my Hawaiian bread but then loved the bread in the Dutch oven! ! Fantastic. No home should be without one.
 
Jo B. December 14, 2014
I have a 5-qt. Le Crueset and have used it for Jim Lahey's bread, for braising beef (short ribs, mostly) and chicken; for bean soup & butternut squash soup; and, lately, for cooking apple-cider caramel (a la Smitten Kitchen), which takes FOREVER but is so worth it. Our two 20-something sons each have dutch ovens (not the expensive kind but enameled Lodge, which is fantastic) and love them, too. One son makes chili and milk-braised pork shoulder in his, and the other makes bread and soups. I have a 2-quart Le Crueset pot, too, and use it for making small quantities of low-sugar jam.
 
Fred K. December 13, 2014
I want one also, for chili and soups. The Dutch term apparently is braadpan.
 
Nanda D. December 12, 2014
I'm a Dutchie, and I didn't even know what a Dutch oven is :p
 
Pat December 12, 2014
I have a Lodge 6.5Qt Dutch Oven and I love it. since I've gotten it I have not used my slow cooker. I use it to bake breads, I use it for Sunday Gravy (Italian Meat Sauce), frying, soups and stews as well as making pinto beans with ham hocks or even making collard greens. It one of the most diverse items in my kitchen and I will probably be getting another, to have a different size.
 
Kelsey S. December 11, 2014
I don't own one yet but I've wanted one for a long time. It's on my wedding registry so come summertime, hopefully I'll have one and if not, I might just have to treat myself! The no-knead bread will probably be the first thing I make :)